Racism and Cross-racial Love

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

Related Post Roulette

213 Responses

  1. Kazzy says:

    A thought provoking piece. When I first started to read it, I thought you were going to challenge aesthetic preferences, which I think present a trickier question*.

    I saw a speaker at a conference expound on a similar thought. He was discussing media portrayals of people of color, particularly African-American, and discussed how they are typically ancillary characters, rarely fleshed out, and often treated as disposable. The whole, “The black guy is always the first to die in the horror movie,” cliche. He then connected it with a story about a very young black girl (6 or 7) who was suspended from school for something very trivial. His point was to show that if we internalize a mindset of black-people-as-disposable based on media portrayals, it makes it easier to treat them as disposable in real life. Similar to the quoted idea that seeing black people as “less than” when it comes to dating might lead to seeing them as “less than” elsewhere. However, I am more cynical than you and rather than think people hold different views in different contexts, I simply think the explicitness of their view is what shifts. So the loan manager might say he doesn’t want his daughter dating a black man and he might say (and actually think!) he is wholly impartial when evaluating loan applications, but my hunch would be that a close analysis of his track record would indicate otherwise.Report

    • morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

      The Transformers movie had the autobot “Jazz” with, shall we say, a bit of a stereotypical accent.

      He also was the only autobot who died.

      Apparently the black guy always dies first even when they’re robots.Report

      • Damon in reply to morat20 says:

        And the girl who has sex always gets murdered
        And the red shirt is killed first by the alien.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to morat20 says:

        All other rules can be broken, but the chief bad guy always dies last.

        OK, I can think of one exception, and it’s one of the reasons that The Scouring of the Shire seems like an anticlimax.Report

      • morat20 in reply to morat20 says:

        I just found it irritating because it’s a racist trope they had to really work to get into the movie.

        It was robots. They had to pick a robot to die (okay, get that — let’s establish drama and danger) and then they had the voice work be done in such a stereotypical way that you could, for lack of a better word, think “There goes the only black autobot”.

        Even though I think the robot was, in fact, white and blue maybe?Report

      • Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        yeah, i’m with you there.
        OTOH, Arrested Development had to work to bring in Franklin (The rule of funny applies)Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


      And then they sealed the deal with the two jive talking robots in one of the later movies.Report

  2. roger says:

    I agree. If you want to see the subtle marks of racism, look at peoples’ dating history. Granted some people are not exposed to as many people of differing race due to location, and you cannot determine racism based upon a small number of examples. That said, there are boatloads of people who oddly never manage to date outside their acceptable race groups, yet who could.

    And for the record, I did date a white woman once.Report

    • Glyph in reply to roger says:

      And for the record, I did date a white woman once.

      I only have one question.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to roger says:

      I should say that I’ve never dated a black girl/woman, but not for lack of trying. My high school, despite being very diverse (majority black) didn’t have a ton of interracial dating going on. Also, I didn’t date a ton in high school. By the time I got to college and spread my dating wings, I was at one of the least diverse schools in the nation. I did date girls in other racial groups, namely Asian and Hispanic.

      And Zazzy is a red-head, so clearly I’m no speciesist.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        I only dated one black girl. It didn’t work out, but not due to race – she turned out to be a real snob.Report

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        There is a song from the first Porno for Pyros album that is stuck in my head now.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        Well, and don’t forget

        Sister and her boyfriend slept in a park
        Had to leave home because he was dark
        Now they parade around in New York with a baby boy, he’s gorgeous!
        Ain’t nobody leaving!

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        That’s more relevant to the OP, for sure.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        Actually, remembering the lyrics to that song (and album)…for “metal”, it was very “hippie”:

        Blacks call each other “brother” and “sis”
        Count me in, ’cause I been missed.
        I’ve seen color changed by a kiss, well ask my brother
        And my sister

        I wish I knew everyone’s nickname,
        all their slang, and all their sayings,
        Every way to show affection,
        How to dress to fit the occasion

        I wish we all waved…

        It’s weirdly touching how optimistic and humane and inclusive it was, a real “we’re all in this together” sense:

        Farm people,
        Book-wavers, soul-savers,
        Love preachers!
        They’re lit to pop and nobody is gonna stop.


      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        That is a great album. Unfortunately, it’s still the PfP song that’s stuck in my head.Report

  3. Fnord says:

    There’s a big difference between personally not being attracted to people of other races and deciding that “Black people aren’t good enough to marry [your] children”.Report

    • Chris in reply to Fnord says:

      This. It’s possible to not want to date someone because you’re simply not attracted to them, but if you don’t think they’re good enough to date your children, then you clearly think they’re inferior. And if you think they’re inferior, it’s likely not going to be restricted to “inferior when it comes to dating my children.”Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Chris says:

        “I’m not personally attracted to people of other races” is a potentially true but rather convenient claim. It excuses exactly only what needs to be excused. I think it is more likely to be a belief formed to make sense of one’s own behavior rather than a belief formed after judging ones attraction to a bunch of people.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Chris says:

        That’s probably true, Vikram, but that’s one of those, “Are you sure you’re not being convenient?” beliefs that are hard to judge from the outside.Report

      • Fnord in reply to Chris says:

        Yes, there are times it may be wise to go beyond “there’s no accounting for taste” when it comes to personal attraction.

        But the “not good enough for their children”, which is what Ms. Harper was talking about, is still an entirely separate and much clearer case, and one which Ms. Harper has much more cause to be dour over.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Vikram, I figure if you can say upfront that you are not attracted to any black person, or any Asian person, even potential members of these races whom you have never seen, then you’re probably a racist, and it’s going to be reflected in other beliefs you have about members of those races. If you just generally aren’t attracted to them, then it may simply be an aesthetic judgment.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        Vikram, I think placing the word “belief” anywhere near “sexual attraction” is potentially a serious mistake. Sexually speaking, people get wired in all sorts of ways that have little to do with any sort of “belief” or “rational thought”. Think of the guy who gets turned on by yellow rubber dinghys or whatever.

        Turn-offs can get wired in equally mysterious ways.

        Or, not-so-mysterious ways. I know a white girl who says she’s just not into black men. The idea of them touching her romantically is a complete turn-off. This isn’t a cultural thing for her – her sister has been in long-term relationships with black men (one of whom fathered her sister’s kids) and her mother has as well.

        When she was young (approx. 11-12 years old) she narrowly escaped being raped by a black man in the laundry room of the apartment complex where they lived.

        I personally believe what she experiences now – an instinctive aversion or fear of the idea of intimate physical contact with a black man – is largely the unfortunate result of that experience, which occurred at exactly the right (wrong) time in her development to get set in sexual concrete. A sort of PTSD. She claims to have no issues with black men in general and can work alongside or be friends with them just fine, but according to her, it will never be more than platonic; not even if it’s Denzel. The best-looking black guy in the world just doesn’t “do it” for her.

        Obviously, these are extreme cases. Most of us here probably don’t want to have sexual relations with inflatable maritime vessels, nor were we rape victims.

        But other, less-dramatic experiences (as well as innate genetic characteristics that we don’t understand at all) shape our sexual preferences in all sorts of ways. I’d be very, very leery of questioning someone’s professed sexual preferences (which you are doing when you say it’s “convenient”), for largely the same reasons I’d be leery of questioning their professed sexual orientation.

        The heart, and loins, indeed want what they want (and don’t want what they don’t want) for reasons that have little or nothing to do with our prejudices – or, to take this another direction, they interact with those prejudices in strange and unpredictable ways – for ex., taboos.

        Someone who’s a masochist could seek out someone of “inferior” (to their mind) race to engage in sex with, to punish or degrade themselves (and derive sexual satisfaction thereby) – to you, this person would appear to be “not-racist”, when in point of fact they are *exactly* that.

        Or don’t even go as far as masochism – maybe they don’t really want to “degrade” themselves per se, but they know their family or society would disapprove if they got caught – they’ve got that “forbidden fruit tastes sweetest” sort of thing going. Again, breaking a taboo gives them pleasure – but they may still hold racist beliefs about the person they are with.

        In short, others here are dead-on, when they say you need to be drawing a clear distinction between what people prefer for themselves (maybe, possibly racism, but you can rarely know for sure – so why even go there, when there are plenty of other possible explanations available?), and what they prefer for family members or their society (where pretty clearly racism can have explanatory power).Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

        There is also a socialization to sexual attraction. Some, but not all, of it is impacted by environment (which includes both physical environment, media, etc.).

        I attribute my general lack-of-interest in blondes to the fact that there were so few of them around when I was growing up. If sitting around with friends and discussing favored celebrities and the like, I find I’m much more in line with the guys who grew up where I did than those who hail from other parts.

        Oh, and after never liking red heads, they never fail to turn my head after meeting Zazzy. They really are aliens.

        But as Chris said, there is a difference between, “I’ve never been attracted to/never seen an attractive X person,” and, “I tend to be more attracted to Y people than X people.” I have preferences, but multiple exceptions to every “rule”.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I think people would be surprised at how flexible subjective attractiveness is, even later in life, particularly when the perceived unattractiveness or at least lack of attractiveness is more a result of lying outside of the boundaries of experience than it is based on more objective things (like bilateral symmetry or whatever). There’s an issue of openness to experience here too. If you date women who you wouldn’t ordinarily date because they lie outside of your fairly narrow range of experience, and you like them, you may suddenly find a whole new range of people seem attractive to you.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:


        I’ve definitely gone through phases, at different points in my life being more or less attracted to different sorts of women.

        Hell, even when it comes to “self-pleasure”, the sorts of content I make use of varies week-to-week, month-to-month, and covers a pretty wide gamut.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Chris says:

        Thanks for sharing that, Kazzy.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Fnord says:

      Right. You (Vikram) seem to be treating not wanting to date a black person as interchangeable with not wanting your children to do so, but the motivations are completely different.

      The first is an esthetic/sexual preference, whereas the second very strongly implies a character judgment. You can’t use “I just don’t find him attractive” as an excuse for objecting to your daughter marrying a black man.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Well, the first *may* just be a sexual/esthetic preference. It could also be racism, but it’s not nearly as strongly implied.Report

      • Brandon, I do think you point out an important distinction.

        Keep in mind though that it isn’t “I just don’t find him attractive.” It’s “I don’t find anyone from that race or any possible member of that race attractive,” which is a pretty strong claim and suggests a large amount of knowledge on the speaker’s part.Report

      • Damon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @ Vikram Bath

        “It’s “I don’t find anyone from that race or any possible member of that race attractive,” which is a pretty strong claim and suggests a large amount of knowledge on the speaker’s part.”

        As a white guy who has dated one Afrian gal (Guana) and trolled numerous dating profiles of African American women, I know what physical attributes get my attention. I find 99%+ of AA and Afrian women not attractive to me. Period. The ones that pass the hurdle are usually have some “mix” of other races, asian, etc. Even Hally Berry doesn’t “do it for me” as much as Nathalie Kelley or Maggie Q. Why is this? No idea. It’s just the way it is.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Well and then you have John Mayer who, if memory serves, referred to his penis as “David Duke” or some such ridiculous nonsense.Report

      • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Certain races have a great deal of variation in them, and you’re conflating large groups when you use the standard 5-race typology.

        I could certainly see someone saying “no blondes”, just as much as “no maydays”
        Saying “no brunettes” means you aren’t going to be dating africans.Report

      • ScarletNumber in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        @kazzy 3:52 PM

        JFK named his penis “JJ” after his least favorite teacher at prep school.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to Fnord says:

      Yeah, I find the concept those are the same thing somewhat confusing also.

      I mean, for example, I don’t date _men_, but, assuming I had a daughter, I presumably would not be upset at her marrying a man. (And I also would not be upset at a hypothetical son of mine marrying a man, but that’s not the point here.)

      Now, as for dating…there is an interesting ‘standard of beauty’ thing going on, and if we can’t think that people of another race are _attractive_, there is some question if we can think of them as equals. And there’s the whole problem of us assuming that ‘attractive=better’, which, combined with ‘more attractive=more white’ (Almost all ‘attractive black women’ that society presents are somewhat light skinned, of example.), is an actual concern.

      But I suspect that’s basically an exposure issue, and will sort itself out as actual racism gets stomped out. And part of it is that the media has a really fucked up idea of what is ‘attractive’ in the first place. And there’s no real way to fix it _besides_ exposure…you figure out who is attractive when you’re a teenager, and it sticks. (Apparently, I’m making a plea for more interracial porn.;) )

      Meanwhile, judging people who are dating _other people_ is an entirely different thing. There are plenty of valid reasons to think that a couple is a bad couple. Their contrasting race is not one of them, and doing so makes you a racist idiot.

      Also, and let me just point this out, in case this is something specific about fathers: It is not men’s place to police who their adult daughter(1) marries or dates. Especially not based on their father’s own prejudice.

      That is not to say that _all_ possible concern are unwarranted. Sure, if he appears to never have a job and is living off her, raise that as a concern before marriage. If he steals all her stuff and sells it for drugs, it is indeed reasonable to assert that even dating him is a bad idea.

      But fathers do not own their daughters. Or their daughter’s vaginas.

      1) I’m putting ‘adult’ in their specifically as a qualifier. It is indeed the job of parents to police their underaged children…but not in a racist or sexist way, and they also should probably not interfere with who their child decides to date. (How their child dates, however, is something else.) This is a much more complicated issue, so I restrict this to ‘adult’ children, considering the article is talking about who their daughter _marries_.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to DavidTC says:

        (Apparently, I’m making a plea for more interracial porn.;))

        Except no. Because when it comes to race and sexual attraction, it’s hard to get more explicitly racist than most interracial porn. It’s mostly “race as a fetish” stuff that relies on incredibly racist portrayals of the non-white partners.Report

      • Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

        Are we certain that America is the largest producer of p0rn?
        I’d say Japan is certainly a contender, which places the racist portrayal on the white person.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

        While interracial porn may be more racist in it’s portrayal of non-whites (I actually have no idea.), that was not actually the point.

        The point is that it portrayals people of other races as _sexual beings_, and doing so will cause young watchers of it to add them to whatever it is in their head that categorizes people as ‘sexually attractive’.

        It might _also_ be racist and impart stereotypes, but that’s sorta a different matter. That sort of bullshit is reprogrammable throughout life, and can be removed with anti-racism messages. Having seen a few racism porn videos is not probably going to make someone a racist.

        But it will make, in twenty years or so, actual dark-black actresses start showing up in the media as ‘attractive’.

        Also, please note that, from what I am aware, often ‘interracial porn’ is actually black men and white women, which seems more likely to include such stereotypes…and not what I’m talking about at all anyway. The entire point of what I’m saying is to get white teenagers to look at black _women_ lustfully(1), and thus not install the little filter in their brain that says ‘white=attractive’.

        1) Normally, I’m against objectifying women…but try stopping a 16 year old boy from doing that. I’d rather they at least objectify them in a non race-based way.Report

  4. Kim says:

    This assumes a whole boatload of reasons why someone might not want to date someone else.

    And it assumes that the lower class person is the person being disadvantaged.

    “I don’t like to date XXX women, they scare me.” … if you fill in the blank with someone who isn’t black (say, Swedish, to pick a hilarious example), it’s, umm, quite a bit different in context.

    (observant folks can note the gendering above — being scared of MEN is way different than being scared of Women).Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to Kim says:

      > it assumes that the lower class person is the person being disadvantaged

      This isn’t about being disadvantaged so much as whether people’s preferences say something about their beliefs. And whether different beliefs can truly be disentangled from one another.

      Your Swedish example is a valid one, and it’s worth considering. I don’t know that it changes the phenomenon though.Report

    • Dale Forguson in reply to Kim says:

      Having never been a woman I can’t speak from personal experience but my understanding is that this whole conversation is heavily skewed toward a “male” point of view. The sociological factors which women find to be the strongest impetus in attraction are completely different than those affecting men at least in my limited understanding of the subject. Since the whole point of the “name change’ was to be more inclusive I just thought I’d mention that.Report

      • skewed toward a “male” point of view

        I’ve noticed this as well. I’m not sure how to correct it without a number of forcible surgeries though.Report

      • Kim in reply to Dale Forguson says:

        I know a guy who makes decisions on who to date based on who is going to be attracted to him. This, um, functions on a pretty deep and instinctive level, and is “MOSTLY” cross-culturally similar. (If you had to give him a character class, it would probably be “bard”).

        That said, he’s extremely unlikely to date women who have purely African ancestry. This is not “won’t date black women” because MOST American blacks have significant non-black ancestry.

        And then there’s the whole “I won’t date chinese women, they’re bossy” (which, while racist, is mostly just expressing actual cultural expectations that differ).Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Dale Forguson says:


        Can you elaborate on how it is skewing male? I recognize that most participants in the conversation are male, but I’m not necessarily seeing how it is skewed male. Of course, I am a male, so it might be sitting firmly in my blind spot.Report

      • Kim in reply to Dale Forguson says:

        Oh, it’s also not “wont date africans” because most africans have significant outbreeding.

        If you’re at the point of “won’t date Mayday because… Mayday”… yeah.Report

      • Chris in reply to Dale Forguson says:

        Kim, your friend does genetic testing before each first date?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Dale Forguson says:

        When I was on the market, part of the point was to get some of the DNA for genetic testing.

        IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Dale Forguson says:



      • Kim in reply to Dale Forguson says:

        Phenotyping can be done in a bar. Genetic testing cannot.
        It is possible for one to be quite accurate in determining genetics from a phenotype.Report

    • Dale Forguson in reply to Kim says:

      @ Kazzy
      Sorry, I received notification that you had posted a reply to my comment but I can’t find it here. I’ve tried all the usual remedies and searched top to bottom several times without success. perplexed…

      I think you are asking me to explain my remark. let me begin by saying I would happily defer to any authority on the subject, or to any female who might wish to make her views on the subject known. My understanding is that research indicates that males are very visually motivated in mate seeking and regardless of race seem to subconsciously look for indications of fertility, whereas females tend to look more for ability to provide support and protection for potential offspring. Females tend to place less emphasis on visual factors. These are of course generalizations and deviation from the norm is to be expected. Although I have no statistical proof, I have often heard that women tend to look for a mate who has traits similar to their father. That’s about the sum total of useful comment that I can contribute being the usual clueless male.Report

      • Dale Forguson in reply to Dale Forguson says:

        Ah, now it appears…Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Dale Forguson says:


        Thanks for responding (I find the comment notification system a bit tricky, as it doesn’t take you to the comment itself. I also find that, using Safari, I often have to refresh to get all the newest comments).

        I think what you say here makes sense. That is the inkling I had when I read your comment, but I wanted to hear your thoughts directly.

        If there are indeed differences between how the sexes pursue mates (and I’ve seen similar research to what you mentioned), I’d be curious how that factors into the discussion.

        Another way this conversation is a bit male-skewed is the use of phrases alluding to what people would or would not “let their daughters do”. I know at least one person pushed back on this, noting that daughters are not their father’s property, and no one necessarily endorsed such thinking. But even acknowledging that sort of thought shows how different tendencies and expectations can emerge for the various sexes.Report

      • Regarding the referencing of daughters, I want to note that every time I have mentioned it in this post, it was quite intentional. I think it’s a traditionalist notion to keep ones daughters protected from the Other. The same protective tendency does not exist for sons in quite the same magnitude.Report

  5. Will Truman says:

    People are generally considered to have a right to their own criteria over who to date and marry, which we do not give over hiring, club admissions, and so on. I don’t see that changing.

    Criticism of others is where it gets trickier. It’s becoming less common for people to announce that they think it’s not okay to marry across racial lines. I know people who have a number of other racist positions, but even they shrug it off as “the heart wants what the heart wants.” There are, of course, exceptions. Often wrapped up in insincere or ill-considered concern for the discrimination any children would face. I’ve also heard of some frustration among black women about black men dating outside, and (East) Asian men about Asian women, though minorities are in an entirely different situation than whites, as far as this goes.Report

    • Well, across all races, dating white is dating “up” or at worst across.Report

      • I was thinking more along the lines of “It’s easier to decide to date only people in your racial or ethnic group when it consists of 55% of the population, than when it consists of 15% of the population.”Report

      • And as such, even if you’re only generally attracted to people of the same race or ethnicity, it is particularly frustrating when they take themselves out of the equation. Hence, a black woman or Asian man, if common perceptions of black men and Asian women being more likely to date outside their race is true, have more to dislike than some white dude who thinks that white women need to marry white men.Report

      • Ok, that’s what *you* were thinking. It wasn’t what I was though. 🙂

        Plenty of my fellow Indians date outside of our race. I have never once saw an Indian with a black outside of Mississippi Masala. Neither do they date hispanics that I remember.

        But we date white people like they’re buy one get one. I don’t think it can be solely explained by there being more white people around.Report

      • Out of curiosity, is that specific to the US or would the same be true for white people in India being considered as or more desirable? (Not trying to disprove your point, I’m taking your work on it going above and beyond the mathematics. I am just curious if there is a contextual angle here among Indian-Americans in particular.)Report

      • If you took my claim completely for granted, you would sort of be an asshole.

        If anything, I think the “upward” directionality of it applies more to Indians in or from India than those of us who grew up here.

        That said, I think those who grew up here are probably more likely to actually date and marry a white person. I think almost all of us Indian Americans have the impression that other Indian Americans are too Indian or too traditional for us.Report

      • I meant that I take your word on what is going on in the Indian/Indian-American community over my own speculation. Honestly, I had never heard of the notion that Indians/Indian-Americans place dating value on whiteness.Report

      • I should note strenuously that this is not one of those things that any of us would actually admit in real life. It’s just that I’ve noticed that everyone else’s behavior only makes sense if that is what they believe.Report

      • Chris in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I dated an Indian-American woman once who explicitly told me that when it came time to get married, she was going to marry an Indian man.

        This was on the first date. It was actually kind of refreshing, and meant that there was very little pressure to do anything but have fun and enjoy each other’s company. I wish more women I’d dated had said, “There is absolutely no chance of this going beyond a certain level of seriousness,” really.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I can’t speak directly to Vikram’s point, but I can say that I once stayed in a hotel that was hosting a meeting of ASAP, the Association of South Asian Professionals. A South Asian professional who is a friend of mine later told me the meetings are meat markets, which matched what I saw–hundreds of ridiculously beautiful young women and young men who I assume were equally ridiculously handsome, dressed in ridiculously perfect clothing. Never in my life have I, an average white guy, felt so ridiculously invisible.

        So some Indians, at least, aren’t looking for white meat.Report

      • Mr. Blue has an Indian female housemate with whom he is pretty close. He mentioned her in a guest post on Hit Coffee. Asked why they don’t date, he commented that they are “ethnically incompatible” or something to that effect.Report

      • So some Indians, at least, aren’t looking for white meat

        Well, the majority are probably not. But Indians in general seem to be more willing than other races to date outside. And if we do date outside, it’s generally going to be with a white person.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I know my buddy is married to an Indian American and her family has no problem with him being white, but they’ve never told them that he’s Muslim.Report

  6. NewDealer says:

    Is the same thing true for religion? Let me ask this as a Jewish person (aka as that weird group that overlaps religion/ethnicity/race/culture):

    I find this to be a very tricky question. I’ve been on dates with Black women, Asian women, Jewish women, and white non-Jewish women. I’ve been attracted to all these women.

    But when I think about marriage and raising a family, it ultimately comes down to this:

    My Judaism and Jewish Heritage are very important to me. If I have kids, I would want them to be raised Jewish and have their Jewish background and identity be important to them.

    I don’t keep kosher but I do observe the Jewish holidays and have very strong opinions on Jews celebrating Christmas. Meaning I think you can be Jewish, or you can celebrate Christmas, but you can’t do both. I’ve never had a Christmas tree in my house and don’t really want one. Nor do I like the constant blaring of Christmas music.

    So if I were to fall in love and/or marry a non-Jewish woman, it would come down to this:

    1. She would have to convert or agree to raise are children Jewish in a way that does not involve Christmas or Easter.

    2. We would have to agree to not have children.

    Now there are Jews from all over the world and Jews of all different nationalities and ethnic/racial/national backgrounds but most American Jews tend to be of a European background and usually an Eastern European one. I’m odd in that I am part Spehardim.

    As I’ve gotten older, I have been more focused on dating Jewish women. Is this wrong? Am I required to abandon my Judaism? Or to do a cross-over that makes me very comfortable. I’m cynical about my friends who are attempting to raise their kids as both Christian and Jewish.Report

    • Angela in reply to NewDealer says:

      I agree with your point (and especially about discussing and agreeing about kid issues *before* marriage), but also think it generalizes to cultural assumptions. One attraction of marrying “within your culture” is that many unspoken assumptions are shared, so that life’s challenges are faced with similar default responses. Some examples off the top of my head:
      – An aging parent needs more care. Is that the responsibility of the (a) the oldest son; (b) the nearest daughter; (c) the most capable child; (d) all the children equally; (e) none of the children. Each case is the default for different cultural groups, and if you marry someone from your culture, you’re at least starting off with the same assumptions, whatever the final decisions end up being.
      – A child is ready for college. Who pays how much?
      – Religious upbringing (of course). And dealing with varying levels of commitment over time, or even conversions and lost of faith.
      When “family” is more than just the couple, having the couple understand each other is a big plus. Having a shared culture helps that understanding. Coming from very different cultures (urban / rural; educated / self-made ; white / blue collar) means communication is even more important, with starting assumptions more clearly articulated, and open to reconsideration.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to NewDealer says:

      Choosing a specific subset of ‘women you are attracted to’ as the sort of women you’re marry is fine. Hell, everyone does that.

      Likewise, even the situation described in this article, of who someone wants their daughter to marry…I don’t think it’s that reasonable to parental prejudices to show up there, but I _do_ think it’s reasonable for parents to say ‘I don’t care who you marry, but I want you to raise our grandkids Jewish’. (Although note there’s a different between them _saying_ that and thinking they have the right to demand that.)

      In other words, I think people should butt out of other people’s relationships, _especially_ if all they have to offer is random prejudices. Everyone has the right to date and marry whoever they want. (Erm, within the bounds. You start dating someone while married to someone else, people have the right to call you on it. Or if you generally act like an asshole to them, other people are going to start asking your SO why they’re with you.)

      But family traditions…yes, the family can suggest continuing them with children, as long as they understand they are not actually in charge, and take no for an answer. And someone can certainly base their ‘Who will I marry?’ decision on that.

      Religion honestly isn’t that different than any other thing that is a part of someone’s life. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to find someone who also has the same thing as part of their life to marry.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to DavidTC says:

        I don’t believe that my opinions on the matter can change the opinions of anyone else.

        I don’t think my suspicions about raising a kid cross-religious are going to prevent people from trying. Same with my opinions on Jews and Christmas and Jews and Tattoos.

        This is generally what I’ve noticed from people who try and raise their kids to be Jewish and Christian. Christianity wins because the Christian parent always gets super-excited about Santa and Easter and any attempt to bring Judaism to an equal level of excitement fails because we don’t have secular/former pagan traditions combined with the most religious holidays.

        Yom Kippur has break fast but that is still after a day of fasting and spending all day in shul. Christmas might involve Mass but is generally about going all out with decorations and such. Hannukah has the memorah, latkes, and presents but seems ascetic compared to what happens for Christmas.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to DavidTC says:

        One of the few thing Norman Podhoretz has ever written that I liked went something like this:

        It’s like there’s an election between Jewish and Christian. To vote Jewish, you have to vote Jewish, because if you vote Christian you vote Christian, and if you don’t vote you vote Christian, and if you vote for anyone else you vote Christian.Report

    • Patrick in reply to NewDealer says:

      I don’t keep kosher but I do observe the Jewish holidays and have very strong opinions on Jews celebrating Christmas. Meaning I think you can be Jewish, or you can celebrate Christmas, but you can’t do both. I’ve never had a Christmas tree in my house and don’t really want one. Nor do I like the constant blaring of Christmas music.

      So if I were to fall in love and/or marry a non-Jewish woman, it would come down to this:

      1. She would have to convert or agree to raise are children Jewish in a way that does not involve Christmas or Easter.

      2. We would have to agree to not have children.

      That’s a weird stake in the ground (from an outsider perspective, mind you, it’s not objectively weird, but I don’t get it).

      If you married a Muslim, would Ramadan be a similar issue? Is the objection to Christmas as much a sociopolitical objection to the place Christmas holds in U.S. culture as it is a religious objection?Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Patrick says:

        Yes. I also don’t think you can be Jewish and celebrate Ramadan. There is nothing wrong with Ramadan but it is not Jewish.

        Passover is Jewish, Rosh Hashanah is Jewish, Yom Kippur is Jewish, Purim is Jewish, Simchas Torah is Jewish, Sunday Brunch with the New York Times and some bagels and lox is Jewish, etc.

        Ramadan is not Jewish. Christmas is not Jewish, Easter is not Jewish, the Obon Festival is not Jewish, Solstice is not Jewish, etc.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to NewDealer says:

      @newdealer , you explained why a Jewish partner would be valuable to you and your theoretical children. I find it unlikely that you are secretly anti-Gentile and using “personal preferences” as a cover. And the history of dating someone from your own religion does not have a history like the one I described surrounding race.

      I think you’re in the clear.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Except that with Jewisness the issues of race and religion get blurred. First, genetic science pretty much established that all Jews are basically cousins if go far back enough and that most Jews are mainly genetically Middle Eastern even if they have fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. 40% of all Ashkenzai Jews are descendants of four Jewish women from the Middle East who lived a thousand years ago in studies I’ve read. So Jews are pretty much a genetic group to themselves, which is fairly close to being a race.

        Second, there are many atheists who identify as also being Jewish and they want Jewish children. This means that the mother has to be Jewish under Jewish law. These people don’t plan to anything religious Jewish but don’t want to be involved with anything non-Jewish so they only date Jews. This seems more like an ethnic preference in a mate than a religious one.

        In terms of a Jew wanting to marry another Jew is a bit of having an ethnic preference and a religious preference.Report

      • I agree there is a possibility that it’s all just a convenient excuse and ND really just doesn’t want to have much to do with non-Jews. The existence differences other than race, however, reduce the probability that it is an excuse. It’s really up to ND to do the self-questioning required to determine whether his preferences are really based on what he says they are or something he tells himself to make himself feel good about himself.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I’m related to ND and I actual have the same issues. My main point was that separating culture and race issues in mating and dating aren’t that easy. Would we say that an American who would gladly date an American of any race but refuses to date non-American citizens because he or she wants to mate with somebody from the same culture is a xenophobe?Report

      • Kim in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        ” most Jews are mainly genetically Middle Eastern even if they have fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes”
        … I remain skeptical on such things. Too much “self-interest” if you know what I mean.
        Of course, I know a Jew who is more or less Neanderthal. so, meh.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        though her father’s roots are on the East Coast (Queens), she grew up in the LA area, and my amateur understanding tells me there are some differences in how reformed Judaism is practiced in the two locales.</em€

        In L.A., surfing bat mitzvahs are totally cool; in New York, not so much.Report

      • Would we say that an American who would gladly date an American of any race but refuses to date non-American citizens because he or she wants to mate with somebody from the same culture is a xenophobe?


        I would consider such a commitment odd. Most Americans are aware that America is not a monoculture, so it would seem like an odd way to define one’s dating set. It’s sort of like saying “I only date people born on odd numbered years.”

        At any rate, I wouldn’t label such a person a closeted xenophobe without asking a bunch of other questions. Being xenophobic doesn’t necessarily make someone a pariah in society, so I would probably take much of what they say at their word.Report

      • Mo in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        American culture may not be monolithic (is this true of any country of a reasonable size?), but there are loads of commonalities across regions. A Californian and a Louisianan will likely have more in common values-wise than a New Yorker and a Brit. Isn’t what makes America “an idea” rather than blood or soil? That would seem to indicate some common underlying culture.

        Interestingly, I an Arab, dated a Jewish girl briefly whose parents did not approve because I was neither Jewish nor white*. Interestingly, my wife is a pretty active Catholic and only wanted to marry a Catholic guy. Her friend convinced her to date me, “Just for fun, who knows what will happen?” and sure enough we ended up married and religion is not an issue.

        * Even though technically, I am.Report

      • Isn’t what makes America “an idea” rather than blood or soil?

        Have you been paying attention at all? 🙂
        If there is a central idea that the speaker has in mind, I would probably have expected them to say that idea rather than use American as a proxy. Then again, it probably depends on how they say it and in what context. My tendency is to let this one slide.

        Even though technically, I am [white].

        I’m guessing that if someone raised this point to her, they would receive a “you know what I mean.”Report

      • Kim in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Interesting review of the subject. I see strong reasons for bias, and reasons that are terribly unscientific.
        the studies on the Kohanim particularly bring this out, as it was traditionally
        a “mark of honor” that one could buy ones’ way into.

        Researchers appear to be trying to justify conclusions based on “facts” instead
        of reality. I’m going to take the rest of that with a grain of salt.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @Vikram and @patrick @kazzy

        I have a Catholic friend who married a Jewish man. She is a general proponent of intermarriage and jokingly but I also think somewhat seriously said this is a plus of intermarriage.

        “(I highly recommend it – you get extra holidays!)”

        She has also described her husband as being the most “Christmas-loving Jew”

        Both statements kind of make me cringe. I understand that celebrating Christmas for the most part is largely devoid about anything involving the birth of Jesus and that many non-Christians are perfectly happy having a Christmas tree and exchanging gifts because it is a feeling of assimilation into American culture.

        Yet it makes me cringe. Despite the fact that they are pagan-imports, Christmas is still about the birth of Christ. That is the nature of the holiday. That is the nature of many Christmas songs (All hail the New Crowned King, Little Drummer Boy, the Messiah),

        I’m pretty liberal about Judaism except that I believe it involves the rejection of the belief of Jesus as the Messiah. Jews for Jesus are not Jews, they are a front for the Southern Baptists.

        Is it wrong that I can’t bring myself to a more ecumenical and free-for-all variant of the Holidays. Is it wrong that I place more emphasis on the Christ element of Christmas than seemingly most of the United States?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:


      My wife is half Jewish, though wouldn’t qualify as Jewish by traditional standards: her father is Jewish, her mother Protestant. But she did have her bat mitzvah and celebrated Jewish holidays alongside Christian holidays, to the extent that her family celebrated holidays. Neither of her parents were particularly religious, but her father was moreso than her mother.

      I never saw it as an issue for us. I’m sure this is at least partly influenced by the fact I grew up in a town with a large Jewish population (I went to probably 8-10 bar mitzvahs myself). Sometimes, I actually need to inform her about certain Jewish traditions/customs. There is also potentially a geographic component to this: though her father’s roots are on the East Coast (Queens), she grew up in the LA area, and my amateur understanding tells me there are some differences in how reformed Judaism is practiced in the two locales.

      Ultimately, both of us are pretty ambivalent about faith, both our own (I’m Catholic) and the practice in general.

      So, for me, someone who married someone who can make some claims to being Jewish, the fact that she was Jewish was of no mind to be. Now, if she shared some of your feelings about children and the like, that would be an issue. But not because she was Jewish, but because we didn’t see eye-to-eye. I would be similarly bothered by a Christian or Muslim woman who was so insistent on child rearing (though the former might be slightly easier to swallow for broader family and cultural reasons).

      So, I think there is a difference between saying, “I’d never date a Jewish person,” and, “I am not interested in living a Jewish lifestyle.” The latter I think okay provided the motivations aren’t bias or hate or anything so ugly.Report

    • Shazbot3 in reply to NewDealer says:

      IMO, there is nothing wrong with aiming at marrying a Jewish woman, or Islamic man, or atheist, or Star Trek fan, or whatever.

      It is wrong, IMO, if you find yourself fallng for someone (maybe a friend or friend of a friend) and you don’t pursue it or leave them before marriage because you want to marry Jewish (or Christian, or Star Trek fan, or whatever).

      Religion can be modified and made up as you go along. Multiple holidays can be celebrated or modified. (As they have been for millenia.)

      But really, you only get a few chances at a loving relationship (or maybe none), and if you don’t take them, you are greatly harming yourself, the person in the relationship you could’ve had, the person in the less perfect (but religiously compatible) relationship you end up in, and any kids you might have.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        When I was single, I was set up on a blind date with a woman who I really, really liked, and who said afterwards that she liked me too — our friend who set us up correctly anticipated that she and I would have a lot in common and would be attracted to one another. But she was actively Catholic and in the market for a husband who would share that facet of her life, and she was forthright mentioning that on our date. The fact that I am an atheist was a deal-killer for her.

        This was very troublesome for me, especially to realize that this encounter had come very close to hitting the bulls-eye in terms of what I was looking for in a life partner and realizing that I was rather close to this woman’s bulls-eye too. As you say, @shazbot3, that sort of thing doesn’t happen all that often. From my perspective, the religion issue was as superficial as you describe it being. If two people could be happy together, it seemed to me, they ought to do that and religion was a silly reason not to try to have it.

        But I wasn’t going to pretend that I suddenly believed in the Catholic faith again just because I had found this really great Catholic woman — and she wouldn’t have believed it, either, even if she had found such a thing more flattering than mendacious. She didn’t want a guy who would go with her to church and mumble the words and go through the motions — she wanted someone who shared the inner experience, which I could not do.

        At the time I had no idea when I’d ever find anyone else quite so good as this woman was. But I had to accept that there was simply nothing to do about the situation. Frustrated, I moved on — while at the time I had no way of knowing it would happen, within about a year and after a few other dating misadventures, I found a nonbeliever who was every bit as wonderful as this other woman had been, in her own different way. I wound up marrying her, so I got myself a happy ending.

        Which is what I wish for that woman who I could have been with — I hope that she found herself the fantastic Catholic guy she was looking for, and they’re having a fantastic, happy life together.Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        My flatmate is Indian and I’m not. With the exception of that, we’re almost perfect for one another. We can hang out together all day and talk all night. What was originally an arrangement of convenience has become something great. I’ve moved twice and when I move, she moves with me and we pick out the place together. She helps me shop and does the laundry. I emptied my vacation account to take care of her when she had hip surgery.

        But she is Indian and she wants to marry another Indian or an Indian-American. She wants to marry someone Hindu for cultural more than religious reasons. Which, hey, is the same reason I’d prefer marry a Christian! And since I’m a WASP, that’s that. And she’s not white, not American, and not a Christian or like me willing to go through the motions.

        If something happened between us, it very well could cost us our families. Which is simply too high of a price to pay. There’s got to be an Indian dude in her future. There’s got to me someone in my future that won’t break my mother’s heart, estrange me from aunt’s and uncle’s, and make seeing my family a sharply unpleasant experience.

        To me, it’s the rest of one’s life. There’s a better chance I’m going to meet someone else than there is that I’ll find another family.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Does anyone see a difference between my story and @mr-blue ‘s?

        I think I do, although I’m not entirely sure I can define the reason why precisely — in @mr-blue ‘s story, there is family pressure, where in mine, my might-have-been girlfriend’s decision was internally motivated, but that doesn’t seem to be the whole reason why.

        Does the addition of a racial dichotomy on top of the religious dichotomy make the story go down less easily?Report

      • Chris in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Burt, the atheist thing has been a deal-killer in more than one of my relationships in the past. It’d be really disturbing if I didn’t understand that, if someone feels that strongly about my being an atheist, it ain’t going to work out in the long run anyway, so it’s for the best.

        I readily admit that I would not date an evangelical Christian, too. At least not a serious one. In fact, I probably wouldn’t date anyone who was deeply religious in any faith.Report

      • greginak in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Burt i’m not sure this relates to your guys stories directly but i think there is a difference between A) I wouldn’t be with XYZ because that type are inferior/lesser people and B) I want to stay within my culture because of my own and/or family beliefs. Certainly those two things might cross over a lot, but not always and it think there is a useful distinction between the beliefs.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot3 says:


        But how much of the latter is based upon a lack of true understanding of other cultures and/or assumptions about other cultures?Report

      • greginak in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Undoubtedly there is some of that Kazzy. But there have also been age old hatreds between groups that have lived in the same lands or next to each other. Those are often based on feuds and battles going back hundreds of years or more. In those cases the people certainly know each other to a good degree, they just hate each other. Of course its easy to say they don’t really know each since they see each other through a hostile negative lens, but that is people.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        A) I wouldn’t be with XYZ because that type are inferior/lesser people and B) I want to stay within my culture because of my own and/or family beliefs.

        I should note that I do not think a lot of people are in group A. I don’t think they think they are being racist. They really do believe that it is just an arbitrary personal preference just as height or weight might be.

        I’m not sure how to word this exactly, but I think what I was/am trying to say is that the net effect of these preferences is effectively racist, even if the thought that “these people are inferior” never enters their heads. I am guessing that the people Harper writes about in her post would be horrified to be considered racist. They just don’t think they are doing anything wrong because we’ve decided as a society that no one gets to question anyone’s preferences. And that free pass that we give people let’s them get away with thoughts they wouldn’t be able to get away with anywhere else.Report

      • greginak in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        I agree with that Vik. At some point there is no significant difference between these two views.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot3 says:


        The Jew from Manhattan and the Muslim from Dearborn who meet in college, neither of which have visited their respective homelands, don’t have much to feud about, I’d think.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        At the expense of revealing some of my own hypocrisy, I would not have been too eager to date a Muslim woman. I have Muslim friends, but the reactions of our communities would be sufficiently disruptive that it might break the relationship even if everything else were good.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        I’m surprised by how many people have stated the family issues could be overriding factors. I suppose my particular context might be sufficient to explain that.Report

      • Chris in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        I’m pretty sure people from Manhattan don’t date people from Michigan. Hell, people from Manhattan don’t even know where Michigan is, and are probably not entirely convinced that it’s not in Canada.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Oddly, I was thinking of the demographics here recently, and I’m not sure we have any regular who currently reside in NYC and I’m not sure there are even any other NYers than I. And I do know we have at least one Michigander.

        Of course, I could be wrong about all of this… I know we have some former NYers (both city dwellers and staters) but I don’t know any current residents.Report

      • Mo in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Why are we more tolerant of, “My parents/family would flip out if I married a person of X culture/religion” than we are of “My parents/family would flip out if I married someone of X race”? Many people would judge the latter as backwards racists and just sigh understandingly about the former, even though there is significant overlap between the two. I understand that Muslims and Jews in the MidEast have issues, as do Hindus and Muslims in India or Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, but we’re in America now, let’s leave those petty beefs behind.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot3 says:


        I think in general there is a difference between religious and racial preferences. For starters, religion is (largely) a choice, while race is not. We can say that people of the same faith share at least certain non-superficial things in common, which we can’t say definitively about race. People of the same faith are more similar than people of the same race. So someone can use religion as a proxy for certain similarities in a way they can’t use race.

        I, personally, still find parental objections bothersome. But in a different way. Objecting to interracial marriage seems necessarily routed in bias or hate. I don’t think the same can be assumed of objecting to interfaith marriages.Report

      • Mo in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        “We can say that people of the same faith share at least certain non-superficial things in common”

        The intra-religious differences can be massive that that’s not necessarily true. I would hypothesize that a P&YK Reform Jew and a C&E Catholic are more similar than a P&YK Jew and a devout Orthodox Jew.

        Additionally, it’s certainly the case that within ethnic groups there are cultural commonalities, that like within religions, are not universally held but may be quite common.Report

  7. Mike Schilling says:

    I’m reminded of something James Baldwin said to James J. Kilpatrick:

    “You’re not worried about me marrying your daughter – you’re worried about me marrying your wife’s daughter. I’ve been marrying your daughter since the days of slavery!”

    It’s an undeniable fact that lots of white men find black women sexually attractive. If they won’t consider dating or marrying one, something else is going on.Report

    • Damon in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      See my post above Mike. I’m not dating someone I’m not attacted to.

      Additionally, I have a very close friend that only “dates men of color”. She’s short, jewish, and VERY LIBERAL-her words.Report

    • morat20 in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      ’s an undeniable fact that lots of white men find black women sexually attractive. If they won’t consider dating or marrying one, something else is going on.

      Well sure. If I find Brenda there sexy and deny I find Brenda sexy, there’s something going on. (Perhaps she’s a different skin color and I’m racist. Perhaps I’m married. Perhaps I’m just in denial. Who knows?).

      If I don’t find Brenda sexy, then denying I find Brenda sexy is just…the truth.

      Then again, I *loathe* my son’s girlfriend. Not because she’s not my type (when I was his age, I wouldn’t have chosen her myself — she really wasn’t the type I was attracted to) but because she’s a giant ball of crazy.

      Which could be a pro-sane bias. 🙂Report

      • Kim in reply to morat20 says:

        “don’t stick your d*** in crazy” is always good advice.
        Sadly, it’s one that few guys take until they learn the hard way.

        Some horror stories (if you have ’em) are always appropriate.
        [not directed as: “this is why I don’t like your girlfriend”… just…
        “Some Women Are CRAZY and can ruin your life”]Report

    • ScarletNumber in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      I don’t know what Baldwin meant by that. Can you elaborate on it? #confused #nosnark

      As for Kilpatrick, my favorite quote by him* was in Airplane!:

      Shana**, they bought their tickets. They knew what they were getting into. I say, let ’em crash!

      *not really JJK himself
      **Shana Alexander, the liberal half of “Point/Counterpoint”. For you younger readers, this was a regular debating segment on 60 Minutes. When Alexander moved on, they were replaced by Andy Rooney. “Point/Counterpoint” was also the inspiration for the Dan Aykroyd / Jane Curtain sketches on “Weekend Update” on SNL.Report

    • “It’s an undeniable fact that lots of white men find black women sexually attractive. If they won’t consider dating or marrying one, something else is going on.”

      Here’s my 100% anecdotal take on this: If I am generalizing it appears that black women seem to be much less inclined to date white men than black men are to date women. I’ve talked to several black women about this and they have confirmed it. When asked to explain they usually attribute it to be unattracted to white men but I wonder if there isn’t something more there.

      It’s also taboo within the black community. I went on a date once with a black coworker who I was extremely attracted to. As we were entering a restaurant two black men were exiting and they stared at us then started laughing. She was visibly upset and muttered an apology to me. It didn’t really offend me but it certainly gave me something to think about.

      And the sad truth is that younger black men are often pretty lousy boyfriends. Player culture is a very real thing and I hear black female coworkers complain about this a lot. They just don’t seem to be as interested in settling down. It’s interesting that of the 13 people I work with directly right now, the nine white people are all married and the four black people are not. All four of them have kids though.

      I’m rambling a bit here but I’ll just close by saying I am indifferent when I see a black man with a white woman, which is not uncommon in my city, but when I see a black woman with a white man it makes me want to go shake both of their hands.Report

      • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        There is a common belief among black women that white men date but don’t marry black women. I don’t think this accounts for the entirety of the disparity between white male-black female couples and black male-white female couples, but it’s probably a part of it. Though the disparity is shrinking rapidly now.

        Also, it’s not uncommon for black men to be less than happy about white men dating black women, but then again, it’s not uncommon for white men to look down on black men, and black men know that. In fact, there are a fair number white men who will date black women but want nothing to do with black men, and black men know that.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I’ve noticed this too. I don’t really have an explanation.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        muttered an apology to me

        It’s interesting (to me) to note that she was effectively apologizing for her race. She was owning up to what “her people” had done.

        I’m not saying this is good or bad. It’s just curious, because we are all supposed to be individuals.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        It could also be interpreted as “Yeah, this stuff happens. Sorry for putting you in this position.”Report

  8. j r says:

    “We all know that being racist is bad.”

    Let’s start with this statement right here. I don’t know how true it is. Do we really all know it? And are we sure that it is bad? Most of my hesitation in full on agreement comes from the fact that I’m not even sure what that word means anymore. The word “racist” has been bruised and battered in alternating attacks from the left and the right, a victim of the culture wars.

    To some extent, we’re almost all racists in that we make judgments about people using various heuristics that incorporate race to varying degrees. Yes, it’s bad. It’s bad in the sense that wanting to eat a slice of chocolate cake with every meal is bad. It’s bad because becoming overly reliant on any heuristic is lazy and becoming overly reliant on race lends itself to behavior that we would consider morally suspect. However, wanting that chocolate cake, but keeping it to a once a week indulgence isn’t particularly unhealthy unless you have an absolutist’s conception of health.

    I don’t see any reason to try and completely purge ourselves of either our perceptions of race or our aesthetic preferences that involve race (and let’s face it, anyone who starts on that whole “I don’t even see race” is full of sh*t). What we ought to do is to consistently challenge our existing beliefs and push ourselves to treat people with the maximum amount of empathy and with the fullest possible recognition of their individuality. If you do that, but you still have a lingering preference for Asian women over non-Asian women or black men over white men or blonde hair over brunettes.Report

    • j r in reply to j r says:

      … you’re covered under any meaningful ethical framework.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to j r says:

      What we ought to do is to consistently challenge our existing beliefs and push ourselves to treat people with the maximum amount of empathy and with the fullest possible recognition of their individuality.

      That’s very well stated. If racism is the opposite of that, refusing to confront our existing prejudices or treat the Other as an individual, which I think is a pretty good definition, it is indeed bad.Report

    • Dale Forguson in reply to j r says:

      I think that there is a basic aspect of the human experience that is being largely ignored here. During the course of a typical day the average human is confronted with literally thousands of choices to make. Most never reach conscious thought. Very few decisions do we take the time to consider rationally, even fewer do we take the time to analyze the experiences we used as a basis for forming our decision. There simply isn’t time for that. “I don’t go to that part of town because I think it’s dangerous there” Do I need to analyze that decision each time? nope. Humans tend to associate with other people who are similar to them however you want to define that; by social class, religion, education, ethnicity, ad nauseum. Because we tend to form groups or tribes if you will, we tend to identify with our tribe and to view other tribes as suspect. In calmer moments of reflection we all recognize the shortcomings of this behavior and promise to be better persons but when the chips are down in stressful situations the gut reactions come to the fore. I have seen Blacks when confronted in a stressful racial situation turn on close white friends, and I have seen the opposite. I think we are all trying to overcome some very instinctive primitive human urges when we try to cleanse ourselves of prejudiced behavior in every thought or deed. I still admire the movie “Crash” simply because it does such a good job of depicting this aspect of human nature. And BTW I’m in an inter-racial marriage. For both of us race wasn’t a significant factor. We just clicked like two magnets and that was that.Report

  9. aw says:

    Even if they are not being racist because it is aesthetics*, they are showing their ignorance. Suppose what they meant was “I don’t find people with dark skin tones attractive”. This white guy here has met quite a few blacks with paler skin than he**. I have met plenty of indians (both dots and feathers***,****) who are darker skinned than plenty of black folk I have met. So if you aesthetically do not like dark skin, by saying “I do not date black girls”, you are missing out on some black girls you would find attractive, and you are wasting your time sifting through messages***** of dark skinned girls of all other races.

    *personally, when I see “I don’t date ________ people”, I assume racism.
    **perhaps it is some tonal difference
    ***yes i see the irony
    ****although a lot of indians I have met have actually been of Central or South American heritage. Did they wear feathers?
    *****The context of my encounters with this sentiment is Okcupid. Although, I did once try to date an Indian friend of mine who would not date white guys because “all Indian guys only dated white girls to put a notch on their bed post, before settling down and marrying an Indian”.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to aw says:

      Your Indian friend refused to date white guys because she perceived that Indian guys dated but did not marry white women, but then married Indian women.

      I could interpret that as a husband-seeking strategy: if an Indian guy was willing to date her, that would mean he was in the market for finding a wife and settling down.

      But the way you describe it, this sounds instead like some sort of irrational way of venting her frustration with Indian guys for their having exempted themselves from her dating pool.

      Is that racism? Or “just aesthetics”?* Or something else entirely?

      * It seems to me that the point of Vikram’s post is to challenge the notion that “just aesthetics” is somehow qualitatively different from more virulent forms of racism — and I think he’s right; the difference is quantitative, not qualitative, and it points to a threshold of racial preference that culturally, we seem willing to tolerate. Preferring people whose skin color and general ancestry are similar to your own in the romantic context is not racist enough that we’re unwilling to make it taboo the way we’ve made racial discrimination in employment taboo.Report

  10. Jaybird says:

    I’ll tell this story again.

    There was a woman at work who was exceptionally attractive. Geek-chic aesthetic mixed with something vaguely funky and hip. She was always fashionable without coming across as trendy and always well-groomed without looking like she primped. Though I was happily married, I found myself stuttering when I spoke with her.

    Until the day that I heard her say “we have to nip that in the butt”.

    I realized “Oh, she’s kind of dumb.” After that, I never stammered when she and I spoke ever again.

    You really can’t help what you’re attracted too (or not attracted to). To turn it into a moral argument is kind of silly.Report

  11. ScarletNumber says:

    Yes, it is 100 percent racist to exclude someone from the dating pool on account of their race.

    However, being racist is not a bad thing per se. In modern America, however, calling someone a racist is probably the second-worst thing you can call someone now.

    A better way to think of it is that when it comes to matters of the heart, one can be as racist and discriminatory as one likes. After all, once upon a time, it was considered a compliment to be told one had discriminating tastes.

    Remember, Loving was less than 50 years ago.Report

    • Don Zeko in reply to ScarletNumber says:

      “In modern America, however, calling someone a racist is probably the second-worst thing you can call someone now.”

      This contention always brings out the pedant in me. Is being called a racist actually worse than being called a murderer, a rapist, a fascists, a pedophile, etc. etc. etc.? One could easily make the same point, that “racist” carries with it a substantial social stigma nowadays, without doing so in a way that is obviously not technically true.Report

      • Dale Forguson in reply to Don Zeko says:

        “Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favor.”

        ~ Robert FrostReport

      • ScarletNumber in reply to Don Zeko says:

        Is “pedant” French for “asshole”?

        When you were a child, did you get upset when your friends complained about something taking “forever”?

        Anyway, for those in the readership who suffer from Asperger Syndrome, I will defend my statement. Out of the four possibilities listed, I maintain than only one is worse than being called a racist in 2013 America*.

        As for the others, fascist would bring a quizzical look from most people in 2013. After all, Franco is STILL dead and has been since 1975.

        People accuse hunters of being murderers, as well as people involved with Planned Parenthood, as well as people who wear fur. So that word has lost its punch.

        Rapist is close, but a 20 year old who is physically intimate with a 15 year old is a rapist. He might be a creep and a loser, but that doesn’t make him a bad person necessarily. Plus people get falsely accused and convicted of rape enough where I give anyone convicted of it a great benefit of the doubt unless there is rock solid evidence otherwise. You know, like our justice system is supposed to.

        *Does it bother you that I use “America” when I mean the “United States”?Report

      • greginak in reply to Don Zeko says:

        Well gee if someone is called a racist that is bad, but there are then a large number of people who will jump to there defense saying they have been unjustly accused and are victims. People usually don’t jump to the defense of murderers and rapists as victims. There is also the going to prison thing for murderers and rapists, loss of some rights like gun ownership and voting. While someone who is called a racist can go on with their day after just having been called a name they don’t like. This also elides the point that someone being called a racist might actually have said or done something that was sort of racist. So the claim might be accurate although that person can still go on with their day.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Don Zeko says:

        I’d actually agree with ScarletNumber about being called racist vs fascist. The latter charge is so serious and so abused, that it’s much easier to dismiss. Racism has a greater degree of relevance in my life than does fascism, and so to be considered a part of that problem carries more weight. It’s not quite as easy to “laugh off.”

        With the others, I can at least ask for proof. It’s a factual allegation of which I can feel pretty confident they cannot demonstrate. The closest connection that can be made is the fact that I eat animals, and am therefore a murderer. Or I don’t support such-and-such health care system, and therefore have blood on my hands. Or I oppose (or do not sufficiently support) gun control, which means I have blood on my hands. While irritating and conversation-derailing, the accusation doesn’t have the impact that an accusation of racism.

        Which isn’t, actually, a bad thing. It would be a really bad thing if the charge wasn’t bad because I could shrug it off the same way that I could shrug off being called a fascist.Report

      • greginak in reply to Don Zeko says:

        What do i know, i’ve called a commie or socialist approximately a kajillion times. Is being racist worse then being called a baby murderer? While i agree the charge of racism should matter, i don’t see in any practically way it is different from being called any one of a dozen other nasty things (baby murderer, commie, etc) No one likes to be a called something but what matters more is what the person actually said or did.

        What is a more pertinent issue is being unjustly accused of being a racist, baby killer, commie, hating America or basically anything OSC says about Obama.Report

      • trumwill in reply to Don Zeko says:

        Meh. I think charges of racism is in some ways worse. It carrieswith it a nonfalsifiable air of potential truth that not many other charges do, even when the other charges are for worse things.

        I agree with you on sticks and stones, though. For the most part.Report

      • trumwill in reply to Don Zeko says:

        I would say that a president being called a fascist is different than you or I being vs you or I being called the same.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to ScarletNumber says:


      Is it worse to be called a racist or to be a racist?Report

      • Dale Forguson in reply to Kazzy says:

        I once had a black man shouting at me in a parking lot, calling me a racist, because I wouldn’t give him “bus fare” even though he held in his hand a super-sized fountain drink that cost him more than “bus fare”. I simply walked away rather than explain to him that at the time my most highly paid employee happened to be a person of color. So to answer your question, accusations are easy to make and quite often untrue.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Let me rephrase…

        Who suffers worse: someone who is unjustly called a racist or someone who is the victim of racism?Report

      • ScarletNumber in reply to Kazzy says:

        Oh I would say that the victim suffers more. After all, he has had an actual wrong committed against him, while the person being called a racist just had words used against him.

        Now if other people start to discrimate against the one being called a racist, then it might be close.

        Sort of how liberals brag how tolerant they are, except for the opinions of those they disagree with…Report

  12. Murali says:

    If I only date Brahmins what does that make me?Report

  13. FridayNext says:

    I read this post last night and it made me do a lot of thinking overnight. It took me awhile to post, but I wanted to ask a few things. This post actually started as a response to New Dealer above since it started with me relating my experience with my first girlfriend who was Jewish. Her parents hated me because I wasn’t Jewish. Which led me to my first issue below, which led to others. (For the record, I have dated MOSTLY white girls/women, though obviously that depends on whether you classify Jewish as “white” or not. As anyone who has studied race in America knows, such classifications are fluid. As someone of Irish decent, I can attest I would not always be considered “white” throughout US history. But I have been REJECTED by a veritable Benetton ad of diversity. So there is that)

    1. The experience with my Jewish girlfriend was rough. We dated for almost 2 years and her parents were brutal. They threatened to cut her off, her mom would clutch her heart feigning cardiac distress the whole deal. (I offered to convert to Judaism. What do I care which God I don’t believe in and which house of worship I did NOT go to?) She was my first love and it was all very traumatic. After that experience I dated, or at least attempted to date, women as like me as I could find, because I just did not have the energy for that anymore. We like to believe that true love conquers all, but it really doesn’t. Dating someone of a different race or culture (or disability or even attractiveness) carries real world burdens and consequences. Not everyone has it in them to be Rosa Parks or the Lovings. I think the original post was on the money, but it doesn’t take into account these real world consequences. My experience was in the 80’s and I think a lot has changed, but not all that much. I have a cousin who recently married a black man, and there are large sections of our family that don’t talk to or even about her and that type of thing has toll on a person’s psyche. She once said that if she had to do it all over again she might not, as happy as she is. Does giving in to racist family make you a racist? Maybe, but it is more complicated than that. Not everyone has the strength to cut themselves off from their entire support system. Life is not a Romantic Comedy.

    2. What about people who fetishize certain races of people? I have had two friends who dated nothing but Asian women because of some sort of, hell, I don’t remember, but they both had their reasons and those reasons were based on cultural stereotypes. (I even have an uncle who decided he wanted to marry an Asian woman because he was convinced after 30 years in the Navy that Asian women were more “traditional.” So he married a Filipino woman of Chinese descent and they are very happy.) Positive racial stereotypes are still racial stereotypes and still racist, imho. Of course you can express it as a negative. If someone ONLY dates another specific race, they are discriminating against all other races, including their own, but imo that is a cop out.

    3. One of the reasons for my lack of romantic success in my younger days was because I stand 5’4″ on low gravity days in dress shoes. It may have been taboo to say out loud you don’t date a certain race, but it is FAR from taboo to tell someone to their face you don’t date men below a certain height. (and even taboo NOT to have that opinion. And while I am concentrating on short men here, you can of course expand it to include other traits undesirable in a romantic partner.) I am not comparing this to racism, though once you start examining the nuanced subtleties between ascetic preference and discrimination I am not sure how you don’t get there eventually. But different races of people have different average heights. I have seen different figures from different sources, but most agree that Latino, Asian, and Jewish men are 2-5 inches shorter on average than Americans of Northern or Western European descent and even shorter on average than African-American men. A society that favors taller men as romantic partners will disadvantage certain shorter ethnicities. People who wouldn’t be caught dead saying, “I never date Asian men” will nevertheless be less likely do date any Asian men if their cut off for partners is 5’10 or higher. Is a romantic preference racist if it disproportionally excludes one race over another but is not targeted explicitly at that race? My gut says yes, but being short I admittedly have a dog in this race, so I am not sure I should trust it. (And shortness is just one example, I suspect there are other examples. A preference for blondes or redheads for example isn’t a racial preference per se, but certainly has that effect.)

    4. Speaking of being short. While I know a couple of women who wouldn’t kick Peter Dinklage out of bed for eating crackers, I know very few people willing to date anyone suffering from Dwarfism. I have known a few such little people in my life and the one thing that keeps me from wallowing in short guy self-pity is watching what they have to go through. Discrimination, certainly, and a society that seems to have no problem with expressing their revulsion publicly and/or infantilizing people who are clearly adults. I don’t think it can compare to racism, as I think it is different in oh so many ways and counter-productive to parse out which is worse or better. But as I said above, once we start thinking critically about the relationship between ascetic romantic/sexual preferences to bigotry, I am not sure how you stop at just race. Certainly it should start with race, no doubt, but it can’t stop with race. And should we extend the same consideration to other groups who get the shitty end of society’s hate stick? I think so, but I think it will be a more difficult conversation for most people because while saying you don’t date a certain race might be anathema, most of us are comfortable saying we would never date a little person. And that comfort does not reflect well on us.

    Any way. I am done now. This post was very thought provoking and it turned out I had some things to say/ask. Sorry it was so late and so long.Report

    • Kim in reply to FridayNext says:

      I feel quite comfortable condemning your first girlfriend’s parents as racist. It’s one thing if its “our religion is good, we want you to continue it”… but if you can’t accept someone converting, then you’re just being racist bastards (like, um, my father.)Report

      • Pinky in reply to Kim says:

        Judaism isn’t a race – so it makes no sense to condemn them as racists. They may well have welcomed an Ethiopian or Iraqi into the family.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kim says:

        that’s beside the point, actually. Judaism accepts converts. So if you’re saying “no one who isn’t jewish” you’re being a fucking racist, because you’re screwing up your own damn religion, and nobody does that without a DAMN good reason.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to FridayNext says:

      1. This post is probably more intended forat your Jewish girlfriend’s parents, not you. Your response to that relationship not working out is understandable. It’s sad that you and her had to go through that, but that’s the world we live in.

      2. Dating people only of a certain race is weird and potentially racist whether or not that certain race is your own. The best case scenario is that it is simply a mark of superficiality. The more probable scenarios are darker.

      3. less likely do date any Asian men if their cut off for partners is 5’10 or higher
      Yes, that happens. The recent talk is about voter ID laws, which make no mention of race, but some races seem to have more problems obtaining IDs than others.

      I’m of the mind that if 5’10” woman only searches for 5’10” or taller men on Match.com, or she only responds to taller men in a club setting, that’s to be expected. If she has an a priori commitment to only date taller men though, that strikes me as weird. Again, the best case is that she’s being uselessly superficial.

      Regarding whether she should be called racist or not, I think it’s fair to assume that she did not intend to be racist or specifically exclude Asians, but this was instead a consequence of her preferences. As far as race relations go, my inclination is to let it slide.

      4. once we start thinking critically about the relationship between ascetic romantic/sexual preferences to bigotry, I am not sure how you stop at just race.

      Well, we can’t. In the very first comment, Kazzy actually says “When I first started to read it, I thought you were going to challenge aesthetic preferences…”

      I have a friend who is a dwarf who is successful at everything in life but this one area. I’m not really sure how to mentally resolve it. I don’t think women owe it to him to date him. At the same time, he seems much more deserving than a lot of other people who seem to have no trouble finding people to return their affections. (Does anyone actually think that Anthony Weiner deserves to have anyone in his life?)Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        On the height thing, I’m short and it does make finding people who want to date you hard but it isn’t impossible. I’ve been on dates with women who were shorter, taller, and the same size as me. If you walk around, you’ll see that short, heterosexual men of all races can get girlfriend and wives. Yes, many women like tall men but it isn’t a deal breaker for all of them. Its just like how many men like women who have big breasts. That being said, Friday Next I feel for you as another short man.

        Vikram, its very sad that we have these really great people who can’t find romance or sex because of some disability thats not there fault. However, I don’t know if anything can be done about it. Absent universal arranged marriages, you can’t force anybody to date or marry somebody that they don’t want to. I think most people are realistic enough to understand that they aren’t going to get Aphrodite or Adonis as a mate but its not necessarily bigoted for a person to want somebody of average health and looks. You can’t shame people into for not being deep enough to overcome these things.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to FridayNext says:

      I can guarantee you that my parents and many other Jewish parents would not have those hysterical reactions to their sons and daughters dating and/or marrying non-Jewish people. Your ex-girlfriend’s mom sounds like a stereotype out of a movie.

      It is probably more important for me to marry a Jewish woman than it is for my parents. They would probably just be happy with grandkids at this point.Report

  14. veronica dire says:

    So, I haven’t read all of the responses here, but I read enough to get the gist. I have some things to say.

    First, I’m not a person of color, and I will not speak to their concerns. However, I am a trans person, and the issues discussed in this article apply quite strongly to me and mine.

    So here is the deal: privileged people (that is, whites talking about racism or cis folks talking about we trans) tend to view bigotry according to a very simple model: to them bigotry comprises individual acts of *rudeness*.

    Sure, this is a bit overly simplistic, but I think it gets to the heart of the matter. From the privileged viewpoint, racism is saying something nasty to a black person; transphobia is when someone yells “Tranny” and throws a bottle at my head.

    However, those of us who suffer under bigotry often take a different view. To us, instead of merely seeing that *this person* did that *one thing*, we notice the systemic structure of bigotry, how it seeps into the air and water of all we do.

    It gets old.

    So, how many of you would sleep with a trans person?

    (Please don’t actually answer that.)

    (Really, it is *very* rhetorical.)

    The thing is this: transphobia is what I *experience*, just as racism is what a person of color *experiences*. If you contribute to that, then you are contributing to bigotry.

    Own that.

    I can hear your cry: “But I’m not a bad person. I have not done something (that to me seems) rude!”

    Ain’t that simple.

    No one can tell you who to date. Sure. That is a sacred idea, and I do not challenge it. You get to choose your partners.

    However, that does not mean your dating choices are beyond critique. If you only date within your race, or only cis girls, then you are adding to the fucked up shit that we black or trans people have to navigate. You might want to do better. You might look inside yourself and say, “Wow, that’s kinda shallow. I don’t want to be that person.”

    It is possible to change. Whether *you* can change is part of your measure as a person.Report

    • to them bigotry comprises individual acts of *rudeness*.

      I get what you’re saying. I would probably phrase it that “bigotry is what Bad People do intentionally to a person that creates harm and could not possibly be attributable to any other cause.”

      To us, instead of merely seeing that *this person* did that *one thing*, we notice the systemic structure of bigotry, how it seeps into the air and water of all we do.

      Again, I get what you’re saying. I tend to use “The System” as shorthand to aid in discussion. The System can produced bigoted results even if no Bad People exist and no one seeks to intentionally harm anyone else. I should post more about this sometime…

      You might look inside yourself and say, “Wow, that’s kinda shallow. I don’t want to be that person.”

      This would be ideal. I wouldn’t be averse to calling out other people’s preferences as shallow either though. 🙂Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to veronica dire says:

      I’m going to risk fire and debate this. A lot of people want biological children of their own. They don’t date to for terrific sex or to find true love. They date because they want a spouse that they could raise a family with. That requires a spouse that could get them pregnant or that could get pregnant. This kind of requires a cis-gender person. If somebody wants their own children than they aren’t a bad person for not wanting to dating somebody who is cis-gender.

      Likewise, your statements regarding not wanting to date somebody outside your race is a sign of privilege isn’t that obvious upon deeper examination. ND and I are Jewish men. There are only 14 million Jews in the world. Jewish law is very clear that a Jew is a child of a Jewish mother. If we want to have Jewish children than we need to have them with a Jewish mother. This isn’t privilege, its wanting to help your culture continue for at least another generation and don’t call Jews white because we’ve been through too much persecution for that.

      Finally, as ND pointed out above, people feel generally comfortable dating people like them and who could understand them. He said, even barring children, that he has no particular desire to celebrate Christmas or Easter or Ramandan or Chinese New Year, and he doesn’t have to. If he were to date a Christian woman, she might want to celebrate Christmas and want him to participate. Why not date a woman for suited to what he wants and avoid friction?Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        1) For someone to automatically exclude people because “I want to have a baby with you”? Meh. I am skeptical there are many of those, compared to how many people would simply Freak The Fuck Out if they figured out they were dating a trannie.
        2) Jews are white in America. Context matters.
        3) You’re misplaying this. It’s not racial to want to preserve your culture… as long as someone interested can become a Jew, then it’s not racial at all.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        But how many people date someone they know they won’t or are unlikely to marry? I dated a number of girls who I had a lot of fun with but I knew weren’t “marriage material”, at least for me. They were a good match when 16 or 18, not necessarily when I’d be 30 or 40 or 50. So if raising children who you and your spouse are both biologically related to* is important, I can understand making this a condition for considering a marriage partner, but why a dating partner? I think it would also be interesting to reflect and question why this is important to you.

        * I realize there are a variety of ways for parents to be biologically related to the children they raise. I assume, for the sake of this conversation, we are discussing being the biological mother and father, the supplier of the ovum and sperm.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Kazzy, not all of us are what you call romantically successful. I’ve been on plenty of dates but none that really led anywhere. As I see it, I’m going to get one chance at a relationship and I might as well make it a good one.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I think this comment of Lee’s, along with some of Murali’s, ought to be illuminating — some people see dating differently.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to LeeEsq says:


        re: Number 2.

        I would say this is much more complicated and can be a whole unaswerable discussion to itself.

        In many ways you are right but a lot of Jewish people like to call it “passing privilege” because we have experienced incidents of anti-Semitism, positive and negative stereotyping, etc. Context and situation matters.

        Most of us are also deeply suspicious of the Michelle Bachmann’s of the world and their support for Israel and/or Jews.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to LeeEsq says:


        I’ve never been able to differentiate between a woman who I think would be a good girlfriend as compared to who would be a good wife.

        I know a lot of people are very good at saying “This person would be a good girlfriend or boyfriend” for a small period of time like a three month summer job somewhere, or for backpacking around Europe, or grad school, or a rebound, or for being 24 and trying to figure out what to do in life while working odd jobs.

        I am not one of those people. I just don’t see the point in that.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I too am suspicious of the Evangelical Republican.
        But to say that Jews are not white in America is ridiculous.
        Even Italians have heard stereotypes (and no one would say they aren’t white!)

        To say that is to denigrate the experience of Jews in other countries.
        In America, I do not fear for my life if I wear symbols that say I am Jewish.
        I cannot say the same for other countries.Report

    • roger in reply to veronica dire says:

      Veronica’s comment gets my vote for best in thread. Extremely thought provoking.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to veronica dire says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, @veronica-dire . I think you touch on something important about how we define bigotry, -isms, and -phobias and how our different places along the spectrum between privileged and oppressed is going to impact those definitions. Institutional/systemic biases are often invisible to people who are within the culture of power.

      I hope to see you comment ’round these parts more.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to veronica dire says:

      Is it somehow morally better to be a 3 or a 4 on a Kinsey Scale than a 0 or 6?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        Does any of that relate to willingness to date transmen/women*? I might be woefully mistaken, but my assumption is that a man who dates a transwoman is no more or less heterosexual than a man who dates a cis woman.

        * My apologies in advance if I am utilizing any of the terminology incorrectly.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’m still stuck in the 60’s when it comes to this particular question. Without discussion of trans-men/women, is it somewhat bigoted to say “I only date chicks”?

        (Without getting into issues such as “I only date chicks who have the boom.”)Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        I figured that was the next logical question. I won’t pretend to have an answer. It seems obvious to say, “Of course that’s not bigoted.” But, hey, there were lots of things it was once obvious to say.Report

      • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        Here we are wading into empirical and metaphysical questions about the nature of sex and gender that make the issue so complicated that I find it hard to think about it clearly at the level of “straight or gay” or ranking on the Kinsey Scale or whatever.

        I’m honestly not sure whether I’d date a trans woman. I suppose it’s a question I’d have to confront if the opportunity arose.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        Put that way — yeah, it is somewhat bigoted.
        But… I affirm that we have a lot wider “justifiable” room
        for not wanting to date someone.

        “I’m a weenie so I’m not dating a Sadist” seems like
        a perfectly valid explanation that is totally not bigoted.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Jaybird says:

        I don’t think there is something morally better about any number on the Kinsey scale.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        a different question, which might help illuminate:
        “What if you found your soulmate, but they were of a different gender than you prefer?”
        (I’m guessing Jay might have an easier time answering this, because having found soulmate already makes it easier 😉 )Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Jaybird says:



        Though you can raise the question about the probability of 0s and 6s on the Kinsey Scale having a soulmate who is in a gender they are not attracted to.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:


        I also think we get into a territory where it is hard to discern between nature and nurture. Speaking from personal experience, I can say that there are some sexual curiosities I have that I will likely never pursue because of social taboos. But does the mere having of those curiosities shift me on the Kinsey scale or mean my gender is something other than what I think it is? Fuck if I know!Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Well, when it comes to the whole “soulmate” thing, I suspect that there are a lot of “soulmates” out there. I was lucky enough to find one of mine but I am sure that there are plenty of folks out there with whom I also would have grown with (though I am certain that I would have grown in a different direction and that me and me me wouldn’t necessarily be close to each other at this point).

        Might one of them have been a dude? Eh, maybe. I can’t rule it out. A handsome, but gentle, good cook who owned a fairly profitable vineyard.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Jaybird says:

        This has nothing to do really with the conversation, but I can’t resist pointing out that ” A handsome, but gentle, good cook who own[s] a fairly profitable vineyard.” is a tidy capsule description of the husband of my first boyfriend.

        Apparently my own dating choices have more in common than I realized before now.Report

    • Murali in reply to veronica dire says:

      I’m down with the idea that systemic discrimination can be an emergent order unintentionally created from individual innocuous acts. Yet, I think we only get to say that a particular unequal outcome is discriminatory if the distributed thing is some thing that we get to demand from people (in a moral sense). Yet, if the women’s movement has taught us anything, it is that intimacy is one of the few things that people can withhold completely blamelessly.

      Consider how a lot of people in the PUA culture talk about women with all their rants about the way women exercising sexual choice leaves gamma males with systematically fewer opportunities for sexual fulfilment. The feminist complaint that these PUA types think themselves entitled to a woman’s body seems spot on here. But even if not entirely correct, there is a sense in which the PUA thinks that a woman’s body is something everybody is on average supposed to have equal opportunity to access to.

      It seems the very same critique can be raised against you argument here. You are not entitled to our bodies. Physical intimacy with me or anyone else is not the kind of thing that anyone is supposed to have equal opportunity to access.

      One may ask why our bodies are different
      The best reason I can come up with is that we experience sex and intimacy differently than we experience money and job opportunities.Report

      • Murali in reply to Murali says:

        pressed submit too quickly. Thus even if people’s sexual choices make your life more difficult (or contribute to doing so, that is not something you can legitimately expect from peopleReport

      • LeeEsq in reply to Murali says:

        Murali, this is an exactly point. You can’t demand that somebody date, love, or have sex with you. For the concept of choice consent to be meaningful in romance and sex, people need to be free to reject prospective partners for a wide variety reasons. Some of these reasons are going to be superficial and some are going to be immoral or evil but attraction isn’t fair. Its probably one of the few areas of life where being unfair is the just thing. Asking people to reconsider who they want to romance is problematic for the reasons of choice and consent that you listed out above.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Murali says:

        Yet, if the women’s movement has taught us anything, it is that intimacy is one of the few things that people can withhold completely blamelessly.

        Yes, that perhaps is a lesson, but I don’t know that I am willing to concede that it is precisely the right one.

        I think people should have complete and total control over who they choose to be intimate with, but I simultaneously believe that their choices are not above critique.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to veronica dire says:

      I think part of this gets into the fact that everyone is lying to themselves about sexual attraction, and trans people is where they right right smack into the truth of that. So here goes my controversial statement:

      Sexual attraction is, despite what we like to pretend, probably entirely learned. Yes, even sexual orientation.(1)

      I _understand_ why gay people like to present it as genetic, but we have obvious ample evidence of this not being true that we completely ignore. (I.e., there has been _cultural_ homosexuality, stuff that makes no sense at all if it’s some sort of inherent trait.)

      Please note saying sexual attraction is learned is not the same thing as saying it is changeable past adolescence, nor is it saying we try to change it or should condemn any specific sort of it, like homosexuality. I honestly think the whole ‘It’s genetic’ nonsense has done a grave disservice to our discussion of this. I understand where that idea came from, and the purpose that was trying to be served by it…but that doesn’t mean it’s actually true.

      Anyway, trans people run right into that wall. Men (And it’s usually men who are freaked out.) have imprinted on an attraction to a certain type of face, a certain shape of the body, a way of speaking and dressing, and think that means they are ‘straight’…and then run smack into the idea that such a person is ‘really’ a man, and their circuit breakers all trip.

      And I think a large part of that is that we’re making assumptions about sexual orientation being some sort of ‘true’ thing, instead of just ‘When my teenage mind was sexually developing, it became attracted to certain body types, and this person, regardless of how they were born or what they have between their legs, is that body type, and hence I am sexually attracted to them.’.

      But instead we still get the whole ‘Being gay is genetic!’ silliness, which also means being straight is genetic, and hence straight people magically can’t be attracted to someone born with a penis. And so if they _attracted_ to such a person, they clearly were ‘tricked’. (The alternative being that they are actually gay, which means they must take the position they were tricked.)

      Whether or not they still date the person is up-to-them, but it would at least reduce transpobia a great deal. And homophobia, too.

      tl;dr: I think we’d be better off if we stopped talking about ‘sexual orientation’ and more about ‘the types of people that the person finds sexually attractive’.

      1) I have no idea if gender dysphoria is also the same thing, I’m just arguing sexual attraction here. I’m more inclined to think that gender dysphoria actually is genetic, or, rather, caused by hormonal variations during development. And not ‘learned’. But some of it might be. And, again, that doesn’t mean it can be _changed_ later, or we should attempt that.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to DavidTC says:

        “I think we’d be better off if we stopped talking about ‘sexual orientation’ and more about ‘the types of people that the person finds sexually attractive’.”

        I also wonder about the lack of separation we make between physical attraction and romantic attraction.

        Is a guy who likes being pegged by his wife gay or straight? More or less so than the people we typically put in those categories?
        Conversely, the guy in a loving, committed relationship with another guy but who only likes receiving oral sex, is he gay or straight? Or more less so than the people we typically put in those categories?Report

      • Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

        There’s actually reasonably strong evidence for homosexual urges being variable cross-culturally. A certain level of homosexuality is one of a few strategies that make it possible for civilization to exist (another is asexuality).

        That said, you can take what most American guys believe about their sexuality and chuck it away. We have such /strong/ cultural overtones to homosexuality in America that it’s crazy. Women, on the other hand, are given much more range to explore.

        (In spain, fwiw, men are known to say that they are hetero-homos, meaning that they aren’t the type to dress in drag, and are generally conforming to a male gender role, despite sexual preference).Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to DavidTC says:

        Oy, more reminders of kludgy taxonomy to describe points along a multiaxial spectrum of behavior and preference. I appreciate your desire to break away from it, @davidtc .

        Can it be sufficient to say that sexual attraction, like sexual preference and all the other sorts of concepts at issue here, is something that happens (at least to a large degree) in the unconscious, and then give people a moral pass on what happens in their unconscious minds so long as they do not act on it to the detriment of anyone else?Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to DavidTC says:

        Burt, any moral pass we give will be used both by those who need and are due its protection and those who seek its shelter even though their reasons for needing the pass are not that defensible.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to DavidTC says:

        Is anything a matter of taste? Anything at all? Olives? Can I still hate olives?Report

    • ScarletNumber in reply to veronica dire says:

      Not only is it perfectly acceptable for a man not to consider dating a trans person, it is perfectly acceptable for a man’s friends to make fun of him forever for finding himself in an intimate situation with a trans person. This, according to a documentary called The 40 Year-Old Virgin.Report

  15. DavidTC says:

    @Kazzy :
    Yeah, I’ve been wondering about the fact we’ve sorta been ignoring that for the entire conversation. There are plenty of women I find sexually attractive that I would not attempt to date, because I know specific facts about their behavior in relationships.

    But that’s ‘fact overriding desire’. Along with the more common situation of facts helping desire. ‘I want to date that person because she lives in the same town as me’ or even the less acceptable ‘I want to date that person because she is rich’.

    And, there’s the other possibility, where facts actually alter desire itself.

    We have incorporated certain things into our young imprinting, so learning those things makes someone physically more attractive to us.Sometimes such a thing can be directly traced back to a single incident in youth. Some boy watched Buffy, thought Willow was hot, and now learning a girl is a nerd makes them _physically_ more attractive. (Which is different than a logical addition or subtraction _to_ desire.)

    This, incidentally, introduces another way to look at the whole transphobia thing. I’m sure that someone has done a study whether or not women are less physically attractive if men have been told they are transexuals, and I’m pretty certain I can guess the outcome of that study.

    It actually would be interesting to see such a study done using pictures of black people that can pass as white, and one group told they are black and one group not, and having the groups rate them. Three decades ago, I could tell you what the results would be. Now, not so much.

    Actual unrelated facts really can alter the physical desirability of someone, because that is such a weird subconscious thing.(1) And then whether or not you _decide_ to date them is on top of that, because your conscious brain can weigh in there.

    @kim :
    I’m not entirely sure if you’re agreeing with me or not in your first paragraph. I was more talking about things like ancient Rome, where a good deal of sexual attraction was between men and boys. That didn’t just magically appears in some genes somewhere and then go away. Boys were held up as the ideal of desire for men, and thus it’s what men imprinted on as desirable.

    @burt-likko :
    Call me a libertarian (actually, don’t) but I don’t see why people should only get a free pass on their _subconscious_ desires. As long as they can find other people to go along with them.

    1) I used to think Scully from the X-Files was fairly hot, and consequently, Gillian Anderson was hot. And then I saw an interview with Gillian Anderson…and she came off as an idiot.Report